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Can Tech-Savvy Activists Change Mexico's Presidential Elections?

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, June 28 2012

Student-led protests in Mexico organized around the #yosoy132 hashtag. Photo: MaloMalverde

The Mexican presidential campaign wrapped up today ahead of elections this weekend in which the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party that once held a vicelike grip on power in the United States' southern neighbor, is widely expected to put its candidate into executive office in its first presidential victory since 1994.

The campaign is widely viewed as a triumph of old power over new. Activists in Mexico are outraged at what they say is preferential treatment given to the PRI's candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, by leading television network Televisa. The Guardian reported earlier this week that a "secretive unit" within Televisa was charged with pushing out material supportive of Peña Nieto and PRI and attacking his opponents. Meanwhile, nascent protests from students organizing themselves in the model of the Spanish Indignados or the United States' Occupy movement are self-consciously reaching for the mantle of populist upswell in the hopes of swaying the election away from the PRI's control.

Is this moment a fulcrum for the scales of power in Mexico? Is it fair to say these Internet-powered student protesters are on one side of that balance beam? And if so, which way is it swinging?

Those are the questions I explored earlier this morning with the help of two guests: Diego Beas, a columnist for Reforma and a keen observer of technology's role in politics throughout the Americas, and Andrés Monroy-Hernández, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research and a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Both have been following Mexico's presidential elections closely, and both have the tech background necessary to understand and explain the role of networked politics in this election, but the two have very different perspectives on whether the student protesters are getting anywhere.

Here's our conversation, which doubled as techPresident's first-ever test of Google Hangout as a content format:

Personal Democracy Media is thankful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.